Month in Review: Stuck
November proved unkind to the Blue Jackets as the team now sits in 30th place. There is not much hope as the injury string continues, and more fans are now turning their sights to the draft already.
Woo boy. November was craptastic, am I right?
If you remember back to the start of the month, the Blue Jackets actually entered November *just* 4-6-0, although they came into the month on a four-game losing streak. The McElhinney / Forsberg stopgap in net did not work out as Bobrovsky was mending a broken finger. Bob came back, perhaps a bit early, but it made no difference. The losses have piled up, and now a promising young team pegged to compete in the top half of the Metro Division sits in last. Dead last. In the entire league. Let's take a quick look at how things got to this point over the last 30 days.
On the first of the month, Anton Forsberg made his NHL debut in New Jersey and the CBJ looked solid going into the 3rd period, but a couple late goals by the Devils spoiled the party. It is almost impossible to keep track of the injuries at this point, but I believe this is the game Cody Goloubef left with a knee injury.
The Jackets followed this up with losses in a back-to-back against the Carolina Hurricanes. This is probably when some panic set in amongst the fans as the Canes were near-unanimous picks to finish last in the division. Columbus did manage an overtime loss in Carolina to get a point out of a bad situation.
This was followed up by a 7-4 home thrashing at the hands of the Lightning, though the team showed life fighting back late in that one. Washington jumped out early to win 4-2 the following game as the Jackets tied the franchise record winless streak of nine games. The team was 4-10-1 at this point and it was becoming clear just how much the injuries were hampering the CBJ.
Then, surprise, a couple wins! In Scott Hartnell's return to Philadelphia, the Jackets managed to pull off a 4-3 win against a scuffling Flyers team. The team flew home and Bobrovsky was huge in his return the following day as Columbus beat San Jose, also struggling at the time, 2-1. Things were looking up, right? Just 6 points out of the playoffs, remember those days?
The wheels promptly fell off, because of course. Detroit dominated 5-0. Boston came back to win 4-3 in a lengthy shootout, though Dalton Prout delivered perhaps the KO of the Year. Philadelphia got revenge 4-2 and Winnipeg won by the same score a few days later. Another 5-0 shutout came at the hands of Vancouver before Nashville finished off the month with a 2-1 victory.
All in all, the month came out to 2-9-2. Six points over 13 games. Record for the entire season is 6-15-2. That is 14 points through 23 games. Yikes. The Jackets now own a two point "advantage" on 30th place and are trending towards the worst goal differential in the league.
While the power play (7th overall at 22.5%) remains a strength, that is about all there is to talk about on the plus side. The team is struggling to score goals (26th overall at 2.3 per game), especially 5-on-5. Want a depressing statistic? The team has scored just 31 even-strength goals in the 23 games so far (last in the NHL), 24 of which came in the 13 November games. You can see more stats about how much the team is struggling at even strength here.
It has been difficult in goal as well, and that's putting it nicely. Regardless of who has been the goaltender, the Jackets simply have not been good enough in net to win very many games. One might complain about the inconsistent defensive play (and inconsistent defensive pairings, largely due to injuries, suspensions, and transactions) but outside of a game or two the CBJ goalie play has been disappointing. At 3.6 goals against per game, the Jackets rank worst in the league in that statistic now.
The month was busy with transactions as well. As I mentioned, Forsberg made his first NHL start. Kerby Rychel also debuted against Nashville as he and Michael Chaput were called up and the struggling Alexander Wennberg was sent to Springfield. Chaput of course was assigned to Springfield earlier in the month. Jordan Leopold was acquired from St. Louis for a 5th round pick and Kevin Connauton was picked up off waivers. With the two new defensemen joining the team, Frederic St. Denis was sent back to Springfield. Matt Calvert and Jack Skille were out, then back in on the injury front. Fedor Tyutin was sidelined as well and Ryan Murray was moved to "week to week" status with his knee apparently not 100% yet. The news today is that Artem Anisimov will be out two to three months. Guess that will put to bed those trade rumors.
There is very little positive to say about the month. The top line continues to produce, both Joey and Foligno around a PPG pace (read more about the duo here), but the "depth scoring" has been nearly non-existent. After more than a quarter of the season completed, it has become clear that the "hard to play against" and "forechecking" identity forged the last couple seasons is not part of this team right now. The "wait until the team is healthy" mantra never materialized. Brandon Dubinsky is "close" and perhaps Mark Letestu will return just after Dubi. Maybe Ryan Murray makes a return this month, but a 2-13-2 stretch has nearly killed the season. Unless the Jackets can pull together something like a .700 winning percentage over the final 59 games, the playoffs will be but a dream. I guess there is the All-Star Game to look forward to? (Reminder: don't forget to vote!)
With that, the season moves on December, and one month closer to the Draft.